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March, 2011

Early Childhood Education in Mbeya

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I am a JICA Volunteer assigned to Mbeya City Council in the field of early-childhood-education.

The first thing which surprised me after arriving in Tanzania was that garbage is scattered on the streets and people appeared not to be disturbed by this phenomenon. Moreover it appeared to me that there was no custom of throwing garbage into garbage cans, and people here appeared not to care dumping garbage into roads. Touched by this state of affairs, I resolved to improve such conditions somehow in my own small ways.

As part of my main activities, I usually do childcare activities at a nursery school which is attached to my assignment place. I also undertake regular visits to kindergartens, nursery schools, and orphanage centres located around the city. In the visits, I instruct children on basic health issues such as the importance of washing hands, tooth brushing, blowing nose with handkerchiefs, how to properly dispose of rubbish etc. In making these introductions I use basic teaching materials like dolls and pictures which I made.

PhotoHealth instruction (Teachers also support the instruction)

I started at that point fully aware that children's curiosity, pliability and speed of absorbency are the same in any country in the world. The infancy is a very important time of introducing suitable health instructions. Once they are exposed to these basic health issues at their infancy, children tend to grow up that way, fully used to basic health issues.

At the nursery school and at the orphanage where I regularly visit, sandboxes, on which children play, were made through JICA's support. With simple sand, children develop interesting plays which are rich in creativity. On the sandbox children enjoy making imaginary cakes, mountains and houses by using just empty cans or husks of coconuts. I want the children to learn and get this deep sense of creativity and invention through playing on sandboxes in this country where teaching materials and teaching tools are scarce.

I also visit the children's ward of the National Hospital to read picture-books for children. This activity is a welcome activity for children who may have been bored sitting on beds every day.

PhotoChildren playing on the sandbox

When I arrived in the country, the children of Tanzania were surprised at seeing me. They called me a stranger and even shed tears because I was coming from a far away country. However one and half years later today, whenever they see me they now call me "teacher!" "teacher!" and run up to my direction, each one of them wanting to talk to me. This is the happiest time for me as an early-childhood-educator, and these children's smiling faces support my activity. I think that I will fulfill the remaining part of the assignment, being thankful to the children of Tanzania. I will never forget how instrumental these wonderful children have been in shaping my own life and theirs.

(Ms. Norie Sasaki, JOCV for Early Childhood Education, Mbeya City Council)

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